13th February, 1542: The Execution of Katherine Howard


Portrait of a Young Woman (Catherine Howard), ca

Katherine Howard: The rose among thorns

Of all of the Tudor queens, it is Katherine Howard that I have the most empathy for.  It seems her whole life, albeit a very short one, was filled with predatory men taking advantage of her circumstances. At a young age, she was forced to go and live with her step-grandmother – Katherine’s father had fallen into debt, and had to do a bunk out of the country before his debtors caught up with him. So she was sent to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who, if I’m honest, was utterly shit and apparently well out of her depth at taking care of the young women in her protection.

In my professional* opinion, Katherine had significant attachment issues because of this, which rendered her vulnerable and extremely likely to accept the attention of anybody willing to give it; queue the gross, rapey, sex-pest-esque, Tudor fuckwits, who preyed upon young girls to get their thrills…men like Henry if were being entirely honest. As you can probably see already – I am on Katherine’s side in all of this!

It was in the Dowager Duchess’s care that Katherine had her first sexual encounters; one of which would testify against her, and the other would face his death as consequence. However, this blog is about Katherine’s execution, not the gobshites who caused it, so I shall put a link to a page about them at the bottom of this piece if you are interested in knowing about their part in it all.

Katherine was only 17 when she was stripped of her title as Queen, and sent to the block. She was executed because she had been seduced by yet another little buttmunch, Henry’s Privy Council pal, Thomas Culpepper. Thomas was seemingly yet another self-entitled piece off work, who managed to talk his way into Katherine’s knickers when the King was out of town. Though if certain history books are to be believed, it was Katherine that did the seducing.

The affair was aided by Katherine’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, who helped Thomas and Katherine to meet in secret and get their rocks off. Not content with simply being aware of the affair, but actively encouraging and supporting it, Lady Rochford implemented herself in the treasonous act. When Henry found out the affair, the intimate details of Katherine’s sexual past were investigated and all the unfortunate misgivings of her past were aired out like knickers on a clothesline. He immediately set to work summoning Katherine’s past conquests and gathering evidence against his young bride.

Katherine was defenceless. She had all but been caught red-handed and the evidence was overwhelming. Both she and Lady Rochford were sentenced to death. Henry, despite being a massive pig-dog of a man, was smitten with Katherine and her betrayal hit him hard. Henry had entered the marriage believing that Katherine would be the bride that his previous wives had not. Despite being 49, partially lame and riddled with cock-rot, Henry’s hyper-inflated ego meant that he thought he was irresistible to all women, even the 16 year old Katherine. There was no way his new Queen would look elsewhere right? I mean, what girl in their right mind would look elsewhere when they have to put up with an obese, stinky dad-man, with a pustulous leg and breath like a dead hookers minge, gyrating his syphilitic ramrod against her kirtle?!  I mean, the very idea of such a catch has me wiping my chair as I write… oh wait, no. No it doesn’t, and Henry was both naive and arrogant to think that Katherine would find him to be the man of her dreams, regardless of his status.

Execution of Catherine Howard

The execution of Katherine Howard 

The main sticking point for Henry was that he thought Katherine was a virgin when he married her. He had undoubtedly also boasted to his privy boy-gang about deflowering her, and felt like a knobhead when he found this to not be true. In fact, Katherine had been with a couple of men prior to Henry, to one of which she had promised herself to be his wife. This was a man called Francis Dereham. When Henry learned about her relationship with Dereham, a man now in employment at the royal palace, he went fucking mental and ordered that Dereham, along with Culpepper, be sentenced to a traitor’s death. Culpepper was able to talk his way out of such a fate, but Dereham was not so lucky. Nor was Katherine or Lady Rochford.

On the night on 12th February, 1542 Katherine awaited her execution. Being a Sunday, it was postponed until the next morning. The extra day’s wait must have been agonising for the young girl. Katherine spent her last evening preparing for her death by practicing placing her head on the block so she didn’t fuck it up the following day. At 7am the following morning, dressed in a black velvet gown and weak from emotion, she was escorted to Tower green: the very place her cousin, Anne Boylen, had met her fate at the hands of Henry just less than five years earlier. She was accompanied by Lady Rochford.

After mustering the courage to address the crowd, she placed her head on the block and was executed with one swift blow of the axe. Lady Rochford followed, kneeling in the blood of her former Queen as she too was beheaded. Their bodies were taken to St. Peter-ad-Vincula within the grounds of the Tower, and covered in Quicklime. Interestingly enough, during renovations of the church in Victorian times, the bodies of the women were never uncovered, although they do say her ghost haunts the halls of Hampton Court.

So there it is, the sad tale of Henry’s ‘Rose without a thorn’. May her ghost shit on the heads of all who sailed in her. If you are interested in the executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper, you may like this Tudorial here.





*I feel that I am allowed to say ‘in my professional opinion’ as I work with young people with such issues and recognise the pattern…plus it’s a no-brainer…plus it’s my blog so that surely makes me qualified *ahem*!

February 7th, 1527: The Vicar of Hell loses an eye.

On 7th February, in 1527 Francis Bryan – or “the Vicar of Hell”, as he was otherwise known – lost his eye in the Shrove Tuesday joust. Bryan took the loss of his eye in good humour (I fucking wouldn’t), but it is thought that because of this, there are no pictures of him…but fret not, I have found one to give you a general idea, please see below, (apologies in advance). Since little is really known about Bryan’s accident, and I have unwittingly duped you into reading this article, I decided to collate a few top facts about the man, so here goes:

Bryan was one of Henry’s privy chamber, boy’s club pals, who had a reputation for being a bit of a debauched man-whore, with a silver tongue that could talk the coldest of nuns into bed. It was this ability of persuasion that made Henry rely on him so much to do his bidding.

As much as I hate everything that Francis Bryan stood for, I can’t help but like the bloke. He was a total character, and although I hate to relate anything I write about to ‘The Tudors’ TV show, (because it’s a steaming pile of shite that I seemingly only watch to give myself a rage hernia, like an absolute self-destructive bastard…*and breathe*), his character in it reminds me of the literal cock weasel from Ice Age 3, or 6 or whichever one it is.

Anyway, enough ranting – these are the reasons that Francis Bryan is a badman:

  1. He pretty much smooth talked his way in and out of any situation, because of this he was sent to Rome to sweet talk the Pope into Henry’s annulment to Bryan’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. Henry also placed such high faith in him, that he asked him to talk shit to the Pope about the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who was incidentally his wife, Katherine of Aragon’s, nephew. Bryan cocked it up, and failed to get the Pope to agree. Now, at this point you might be thinking that he wasn’t such a great negotiator after all, but ask yourself this: How did he fail in his mission, and not only have the balls to return home, but still remain Henry’s pal, and also be the one to tell Henry that he had been excommunicated?! Cos he could talk his way out of fucking anything and everything, that’s how!

(Sidenote: Francis Bryan was so good with words that he moonlighted as a poet, undoubtedly using this skill to convince girls to hop on the good foot with him).

Which brings me swiftly onto my next Francis fact…

2. Francis Bryan was the cousin to Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard AND Jane Seymour. It’s actually not as impressive as it seems since everyone and anyone at court was related by one incestuous link or another, but to be Anne and Catherine’s kin, and remain THAT close to the King?! That just serves as yet more evidence of how canny Francis Bryan was.

Seamlessly leading onto my next fact…

3. “The Vicar of Hell”?!…How did he get such a badass nickname?’ I hear you ask. Well, in short, by being a bit of a dick. Basically, Bryan looked out for number 1, using Anne Boylen’s influence over Henry in the early days to rise up the ranks at court, and then working with Cromwell to throw her under the bus when it all went south. Not only had that, but his interest in shagging, gambling and general lewdness never went unnoticed. The term itself was apparently coined by Henry after Bryan made some gross reference about ‘ruining’ both a daughter and her mother, being akin to eating a hen and then the chicken…a comment that Henry found hysterical (because of course he did, the fat prick). Cromwell used the name to refer to Bryan in a letter to the stuffy little oink, Stephen Gardiner…and it stuck.

4. Henry, being an absolute fanny-monger himself, could not believe that his pious and loyal daughter, the Princess Mary, could be so innocent. In order to get validation, he told Francis Bryan to chat pure filth down Mary’s ear and gauge her reaction. Being no stranger to sexing up women, off he went to drip innuendos and euphemisms down the Princess’ ear; a treasonable crime should anybody else have done this, and even grimmer that it was set up by Mary’s own father. But, to everyone’s relief, it turned out that Mary had no fucking clue what Francis Bryan was on about, and thus her reputation remained intact.

5.Francis Bryan married Joan Fitzgerald, an Irish noblewoman. After her first husband’s death, Joan was planning on marrying her cousin in order to maintain the family inheritance and their hold over Ireland. However, Bryan boldly and selflessly stepped in to offer his services, marrying Joan, and securing himself the title of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. Now in all of Bryan’s years of womanising and monarchical arse-kissing, playing one person off against the next and gobshiteing around, it was his wife who caused his ultimate and final indignity. Whilst lying on his death bed, Joan fucked off hunting with her cousin Gerald. She married Gerald the following year…

Not a conclusive or exhaustive look at Francis Bryan’s life, just the highlights. Francis Bryan was indeed a massive bastard face but, credit where credit is due, he was a fucking clever one.